Sabbatical reflection

It has been a month since my sabbatical began. I feel better rested physically and psychologically. Longer hours of sleep, exercise, and disengagement from pastoral duties does wonders. Being overseas helped too because you became unavailable physically.

I also feel thankful for the many blessings of God. Never thought of touring Spain, never was interested. But in pursuing the kingdom, in seeking rest and restoration, I ended up in Spain, beginning in San Sebastian and ending in Barcelona, staying at many towns and cities along the way, in Basque and Catalonia regions, often walking in the streets and countryside. I love silent retreats, silence and solitude. I love hiking. And I was blessed by Ignatius Spiritual Exercises and spirituality. All these three elements that nourishes me were present in this sabbatical program. What a blessed trinity!

This was followed by a vacation and catch up time with Mike and Amy in Bolton. They were very gracious and availed themselves to us for five days. We had significant time catching up usually over meals – restaurant, home-cooked and takeaways. It was around 7 to 18 degree centigrade with gloomy clouds and rain on quite a few days. This restricted our plans but it meant more rest, early to bed and late to rise. It was a contrast to the Camino Ignaciano– late to bed, early to rise.

Now I am glad to be back home. I feel relieved. Spanish and English food and weather are good – for a while, usually tolerable for two weeks or so, in my experience. I like Singapore. I like the smells, tastes, sights of home.

I don’t like the haze though. This morning, I saw the haze and told my wife, “Thank God that in the last three weeks, we were away overseas breathing fresh mountain and countryside air”.

I had an inspired thought this morning as I reflected on how to use the rest of my sabbatical wisely: treat each day as you would a sabbath day with an eye on REMEMBRANCE (spiritual nourishment), REST (physical and emotional self-care), RELISH (life-giving engagement and activities).

“Lord, help me do this and experience more of your love.”

 

OMF Bungalow: praying amidst charming surroundings

OMF from Strawberry Park and Pahang Sultan's bugalow in background

Koh Seng Chor with me

my roomElaine's roomhall

The kindness of the Lord

It has been some years since I last went up to OMF Bungalow in Cameron Highlands. So I was glad to know that the last two rooms available in the bungalow were available for Koh Seng Chor, the pastor of Evangel Christian Church, and myself. My daughter wanted to tag along to have her prayer retreat so she had to share a room with me as there were no other rooms available. That would mean an inconvenience for prayer, but she’s my one and only daughter! It is always better to be able to pray, sleep and read anyway and anytime you want, and sharing a room with another restricts this to some extent. However, the Lord was kind, for as soon as we arrived we were told the good news that all three of us would have individual rooms to ourselves due to some cancellation.

Elaine in garden

Eat, sleep, pray, share

Most of the morning and night  hours were spent alone in the room or outside, meditating and praying through Psalms 55, reading old journal entries, and writing new ones. On occasion Seng Chor and I would take relaxed afternoon walks in the cool Cameron air chatting all Brinchang walkthe way down to Chefu or Brinchang town, sharing our heart and telling grandfather stories, literally. My daughter, well, she wanted her God-space, so she was left alone except during meal times. Meal times were fun as we sat with and got to know some American missionary couples and Malaysian Chinese ladies who were also staying there.

Faded charm of the 60’s and 70’s

The food was warm and nourishing and the Cameron vegetables were fresh and deliciously cooked by Mrs Chye, the caretaker. The beverages and the superb cookies were free and available 24/7. The charm of the ferntips, gourd and fish in Thai sweet sauceplace is its tired and dated look – like going back to a warm and welcoming home in the 60’s and 70’s. This place was once owned by a Chinese businessman and built in 1933 before being bought over by China Inland Mission (now OMF), a missionary organization. While staying there you could fantasize that you were that tycoon, albeit only for a few days, enjoying the striking views outside your large garden and with your helpers cooking and cleaning your home, while you lounge around without a care in the world.

mossy forestTouring around

My daughter and I went for a tour of Mt Brinchang, the mossy forest, and the BOH tea plantation. We also visited Brinchang town and Tanah Rata, and there being no place in the “inn”, we stayed a night at Strawberry Park hotel and had breakfast before we departed for home in the 10am bus to Singapore. We arrived home close to 7 pm on Friday.

Tea at BOH tea plantation